The son of a tailor, at the age of 18 Angelo Donghia left Vandergrift, Pennsylvania for New York City to study interior design at Parsons School of Design. Upon graduation, he joined the distinguished firm of Yale Burge Interiors. With Burge as a mentor he honed his craft and developed a personal style. In 1966, on the recommendation of Billy Baldwin, Mr. Donghia designed the Opera Club at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center which, with silver foil ceilings, blue chandeliers and black upholstery, was met with great acclaim. He was soon made partner of the design firm, then renamed Burge-Donghia.
With a penchant for business, Mr. Donghia’s diverse talents were conveyed not only in the wide range of interiors he designed but also in the many products that carried his name. Said Donghia, “I knew that what I had wasn’t enough and that my growth had to be through means which weren’t the decorating business.” By 1968 Mr. Donghia had established &Vice Versa, a to-the-trade collection and showroom of fabrics and wallcoverings - later to become Donghia Textiles. This company was quickly recognized as one of the most imaginative, energetic and contemporary textile and wallcovering collections in the market.
By 1972, with the passing of Yale Burge, Burge-Donghia was renamed Donghia Associates and served the areas of residential, contract and hospitality interior design. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, Mr. Donghia’s client list grew to include major corporations, cultural institutions, as well as a number of high-profile residential clients. Projects included the S.S Norway, the Omni International Hotels in Miami and Atlanta, and the St. Andrews Country Club in Florida. Ralph Lauren, Halston, Donald Trump, Barbara Walters, Mary Tyler Moore, Liza Minelli, Neil Simon, Grace Mirabella and Diana Ross were amongst his residential clientele. Angelo Donghia became so renowned that the Detroit News called him “the Saint Laurent of sofas.” His reach extended beyond interior design; he was a fixture on the elite New York social scene, named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame and featured in countless publications from the New York Times to Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
His business continued to expand and in 1976 he opened the first of a series of Donghia Showrooms in Los Angeles. Soon after, in 1978, he founded Donghia Furniture, a collection of made-to-order upholstered furniture sold exclusively to the trade.
Donghia’s design philosophy, a less is more approach, extended to all his projects. “He starts with a concern for living,” stated the late Grace Mirabella, both a client and Editor of Vogue. In his interiors he created total environments – not just rooms – on the tenet that “You should feel at all times that what is around you is attractive . . . and that you are attractive.” His trademarks included the use of silver gray, often through gray flannel, an attention to ceilings and “fat” furniture.
At the time of his passing in 1985, the New York based Donghia Companies included five branches: Donghia Associates, Donghia Furniture, Donghia Textiles, Donghia Showrooms and Donghia Licensing. “The traditional designer does very few of the things I do,” said Angelo Donghia. And, indeed, Donghia was much more than an interior designer.
Angelo Donghia was the recipient of many awards during his lifetime including: the Tommy Award for Fabric Design, the Annual Euster Merchandise Mart Award for Outstanding Leadership in the Home Furnishings Industry, an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Fine Arts by The New School of Social Research and Parsons School of Design, the Marshall Field’s “Distinction and Design” Award. He was also, posthumously, inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame.
To this day Donghia, Inc. maintains the exceptional design philosophy of its founder. Angelo Donghia’s vision lives on through the company and also through the Angelo Donghia Foundation, which provides scholarships each year to promising interior design students in the United States. The Foundation has made such donations as the Angelo Donghia Materials Library and Study Center at the Parsons School of Design and the Angelo Donghia Studio for Interior Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design as well as organizations supporting research and treatment of AIDS.